Fundamentally, there are three top-level activities in product management:
Like any model, this is somewhat simplified. Each of these main activities covers a lot of ground! But it’s pretty good for doing some high-level thinking – about where we should be spending our time, and about the tools we use to be more effective.
Because we are product managers and technologists, we love to focus on #2 – creating the solution. But #3 – going to market – is more important than the product. And #1 – finding and validating market problems – is by far the most important. If you’re in doubt about this, consider Kickstarter. Many successful Kickstarter campaigns only have #1 and #3 – they’re raising money for #2, right? If a Kickstarter campaign doesn’t do a good job of #1, then they don’t make any money. And a Kickstarter campaign is by definition a go-to-market effort.
Or consider the long list of failed products in the world. There are multiple reasons for failure, but the most common is “it’s a solution in search of a problem.” The product – no matter its quality or polish – doesn’t solve a market problem, so no one buys it.
I’ve talked a lot in other posts and podcasts about how we don’t have good tools for either #1 or #3. I’m tempted to go on about that here as well. But my real point in this post was to introduce this framework for thinking about product management, and to set the stage for helping us do all these activities better. As I wrote a few weeks ago, if we become more effective at doing product management, everyone benefits. We have a lot of leverage on revenues, profits, and happiness.
So we’ll drill down into “finding and validating market problems” and “taking solutions to market” in the next few weeks. How can we be more effective at these activities, and as a result become more effective product managers?
Let me know if you have specific questions, or thoughts – or disagreements – about this basic framework.
Your host and author, Nils Davis, is a long-time product manager, consultant, trainer, and coach. He is the author of The Secret Product Manager Handbook, many blog posts, a series of video trainings on product management, and the occasional grilled pizza.
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